Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E M Wireless Keyboard Is Unusual

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 6, 2014 - 08:18 PM |
Tagged: keyboard, travel keyboard, htpc keyboard

So, I am writing about a wireless, non-mechanical keyboard.

Mad Catz has made a weird keyboard layout. Honestly, it looks like something from a 1990's-era sci-fi video game. I could imagine "Lev Arris" pulling it out of his trench coat while discussing space pirates. It also includes mouse and media functionality, even when pairing with Android and iOS devices (it connects with Macs and PCs, too). It's also small.

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As stated earlier, its keys are not mechanical. They are, also, not membrane-dome. The keys are based on scissor-switches, common with laptop keyboards. While I do not know the specifics of this keyboard, I do not know of any scissor-switch keyboard with removable keys. This means that, if something gets stuck under a keycap, you cannot remove it (unless you intend to never put it back on). Again, Mad Catz could have done something special, but it is something to think about -- especially if you intend on using this keyboard in the living room while eating.

The keyboard has an adjustable, white backlight for the "main" keys. It is, also, $100. This is definitely a unique design, tailored for a living room (or hotel room) experience. It is not cheap, but interesting. I could see it being useful, especially if a user could use it for both their living room, and during travel.

Source: Mad Catz

Live and Let Dvorak

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 19, 2014 - 11:46 PM |
Tagged: Keyboards, keyboard

Peter Bright down at Ars Technica wrote an editorial about the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. His opinion is that keyboard developers should innovate in ways that "doesn't undermine expectations". Replacing a row of physical keys for a software-controlled touch strip is destructive because, even if the change proved invaluable, it would ultimately be inferior because it clashes with every other keyboard the user encounters. He then concludes with a statement that really should have directed his thesis.

Lenovo's engineers may be well-meaning in their attempts to improve the keyboard. But they've lost a sale as a result. The quest for the perfect laptop continues.

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That is the entire point of innovation! You may dislike how a feature interacts with your personal ecosystem and that will drive you away from the product. Users who purchased the laptop without considering the keyboard have the option of returning it and writing reviews for others (or simply put up with it). Users who purchased the laptop because of the keyboard are happy.

I mainly disagree with the article because it claims that it is impossible to innovate the keyboard in any way that affects the core layout. I actually disagree with it for two reasons.

My first issue is about how vague he is. His primary example of good keyboard innovation is the IBM ThinkPad 701c and its "butterfly keyboard". The attempt is to increase the keyboard size to exceed the laptop itself to make it more conventional. Conventional for who? How many people use primarily small laptops with shrunken keyboards compared to people who touch-type function keys?

The second critique leads from the first. The PC industry became so effective because every manufacturer tries to be a little different with certain SKUs to gain tiny advantages. There could have easily been a rule against touchscreen computers. Eventually someone hit it out of the park and found an implementation that was wildly successful to a gigantic market. The QWERTY design has weathered the storm for more than a century but there is no rule that it cannot shift in the future.

In fact, at some point, someone decided to add an extra row of function keys. This certainly could undermine the expectations of users who have to go between computers and electronic typewriters.

It will be tough, though. Keyboards have settled down and learning their layouts is a significant mental investment. There are several factors to consider when it comes to how successful a keyboard modification will become. Mostly, however, it will come down to someone trying and observing what happens. Do not worry about letting random ideas in because the bad ideas will show themselves out.

Basically the point is: never say never (especially not that vaguely).

Source: Ars Technica

Video Perspective: Topre Type Heaven Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | December 18, 2013 - 06:20 PM |
Tagged: video, Type Heaven, topre, keyboard

I don't consider myself a keyboard guru, but I sure do go through a lot of them in my line of work.  At any of five different workstations in our office I'll be using a different keyboard.  And we tend to interchange them often enough that I would guess I have typed on as many as 15 different keyboards this year.  Some for longer periods of time than others of course, but the ones that make it to my main desk get quite a workout.

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When our friends at Seasonic told us they wanted to send along a Topre Type Heaven keyboard for us to try out, I told them to feel free; but in my head I was thinking "oh geez another keyboard."  Turns out I didn't give this brand and this keyboard enough credit out the gate.

(Note: Seasonic is the official distributor of the Topre keyboard brand in the US now and offers a 2 year warranty on the units!)

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With a price tag of $150 on Amazon.com, there are going to quite of few of you that just instantly turn off.  Understandable.  Others though will appreciate the need for a high quality input device if you do any appreciable amount of typing for work or pleasure.  Using a technology called electrostatic capacitive key switches, Topre combines benefits of Cherry and standard membrane keyboards in one package.

Check out my video above for some sound comparison as well as my thoughts on using the keyboard long term.  Not to spoil it: but I'm keeping this keyboard on my desk despite me missing the multimedia controls of my previous keyboard. 

Check below for more photos of the Topre Type Heaven keyboard!!

CODE Keyboard Is Probably Pretty Good

Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 2, 2013 - 02:12 AM |
Tagged: WASD Keyboards, mechanical keyboard, keyboard, CODE

... But if you read the blog post, you would think it is the one keyboard to rule them all.

The CODE is the product, literally, of a collaboration between Stack Overflow co-founder Jeff Atwood and Weyman Kwong of WASD Keyboards. I recognize the tongue-in-cheek humor and I acknowledge that the team are clearly (that was not a Cherry MX switch pun... that I would admit to) well suited to the challenge of designing a keyboard for programmers.

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Before we run through the opinion, its key touted perks are:

  • Cherry MX Clear switches
    • Similar to Cherry MX Brown with much more resistance. Hard to bottom out.
  • DIP switches to customize functionality without software.
  • White LED backlighting
  • Very stable rubberized ergonomic flaps and angled pads.
  • Detachable Micro USB cable

The thing is, WASD Keyboards already allows users to purchase customized keyboards. As far as I can tell, the CODE is just a variant of the existing WASD V2 104-key Custom Mechanical Keyboard with white backlighting. Both Keyboards are priced at $149.99. The CODE limits your choice but provides you with the illuminated keys and the MX Clear switches, normally a $10 upgrade, in exchange for just taking what you are offered without question. Okay, you can ask for a 104-Key or an 87-Key version, so one question is allowed. Still, the CODE is a good value; as I mentioned, you basically get free key lighting and a free upgrade to Cherry MX Clear.

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But it is still not an epiphany for mechanical keyboard lovers.

At one point, I hoped to take some time for a hobby and modify a mechanical keyboard to fit my specifications. I envisioned an aluminum body enclosing solidly built buckle-spring keys. I did not know about Cherry MX Green switches at the time. For keycaps, I imagined two pieces of glass sandwiching a translucent white plastic sheet masked with a black symbol for each letter. I figure the feel of glass would be more pleasing to the fingers than warm plastic. Each key would, of course, be let from underneath with a soft white (blue-doped-white) LED. Each translucent sheet would softly diffuse the light except for the shadow of whatever characters the key represents.

That would be a revolution... for me. I think I would like the feel of cool glass under my fingers.

So I guess I leave the post with a question for the viewers: What would your "perfect" keyboard be?

Source: CODE
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Razer

Introduction and externals

Razer maintains a distinct sense of style across their product line. Over the past decade and a half, Razer has carved a spot in the peripherals market catering to competitive gamers as well as developing wholly novel products for the gaming market. Razer has a catalog including standard peripherals and more arcane things such as mice with telephone-style keypads geared toward MMORPG players as well as motion sensing controllers employing magnetic fields to detect controller position.

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The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth 2013 Edition comes out of the box ready for use without additional software provided or assembly required.  The keyboard uses a standard layout with five macro keys attached in a column on the left of the board. Rather than dedicated media buttons, media and keyboard specific functions are accessed by pressing a combination of a function key located to the right of right alt and the function keys on the top row.

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The headphone and microphone jack are present on the side of the keyboard.

Continue reading our review of the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Keyboard!!

Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 14, 2013 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: windows rt, mouse, microsoft, keyboard

I would normally begin a product announcement with some introduction but, this time, a quote from Mary Jo Foley seems a better fit:

These new peripherals work with Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows RT, though only "basic functionality" is provided when used with Windows RT.

Problems with Windows RT, it is now obvious, go beyond Ethernet dongles and I would be shocked if Microsoft Hardware are the only ones suffering. We have already heard Plugable, an adapter and peripherals company, complain about Microsoft and their demand for Plugable to pull Surface RT drivers from their website. I cannot see this being a few localized issues.

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These are the problems you will experience with a platform where the owner has complete control. Imagine how bad Windows RT will be if Microsoft slips behind, again, in Internet Explorer development; the only browsers allowed must be Internet Explorer reskins. But I digress.

The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop is a mouse, keyboard, and number pad with a unique appearance. Non-uniform keys pushing upward to a split should conform to the hand of a typical home row typist. WASD gamers might as well stop reading by this point. Microsoft is not known for mechanical switches so I would expect this keyboard to be typical membrane-based activation.

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Side-on shows off the depth better.

That said, most Microsoft peripherals I have used tends to keep up with mechanical in terms of durability and performance... except wired Xbox headsets. Those little turds snap within a matter of hours.

The mouse, on the other hand (literally), does not seem to include extra mouse buttons except for a dedicated Windows button. If you have not figured it out by now: gamers are not the target audience. It seems fairly standard otherwise, from a feature standpoint, although comfort and durability are the big deciding factors for many users which we are not in a position to give an honest opinion on.

Together, the devices are available within the week and retail for $129.95. The keyboard, separately, will be available in September for $80.95; the mouse, separately, will be available for $59.95. High price, but it might just be worth it for dedicated typists.

Source: Microsoft

CES 2013: Corsair Next-Gen Vengeance Series Gaming Keyboards, Mice, Mouse Mats, and Headset Drivers

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2013 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: vengeance, mouse, MM600, M95, M65, keyboard, K95, gaming mat, gaming headset, corsair, CES

Corsair upgraded their Vengeance line of products with the Vengeance K95 Gaming Keyboard, Vengeance M95 and M65 mice, Vengeance MM600 Gaming Mat, and driver enhancements for the Vengeance 200 Wireless Gaming Headset.

Vengeance K95 Gaming Keyboard

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Courtesy of Corsair

The Vengeance K95 Gaming Keyboard is an evolutionary step in the growth of Corsair's award-winning keyboard line. Corsair used the K90 keyboard as a foundation, and added a brushed-aluminum chassis and Cherry MX key mechanical switches on all keys. Additionally, the K95 keyboard features 18 programmable macro keys and a 1ms reporting rate.

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Courtesy of Corsair

Corsair further enhanced the original K90's design by added individually back-lit keys with adjustable light intensity. The keyboard back-lighting can be macro-controlled and is adjustable to four pre-set levels.

The Vengeance K95 Gaming Keyboard will be available at a retailer near you in January at an MSRP of $149.99.

The Vengeance Gaming Mouse - Enhanced

Building on a successful design, Corsair pushed the envelope with the Vengeance M95 and M65 Gaming Mice. Both are encased in stylishly designed uni-body aluminum chassis and feature the Avago Technologies ADNS-9800 LaserStream™ gaming sensor. With this sensor, both mice boast a maximum tracking resolution of 8200 DPI more than enough to defeat any electronic foe.

Vengeance M95 Gaming Mouse

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Courtesy of Corsair

The Vengeance M95 Gaming Mouse has been fully optimized for MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) gamers with 15 intuitively placed, programmable buttons. Further, the M95's on-board memory can store up to six macro profiles.

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Courtesy of Corsair

The M95 Gaming Mouse also includes a fully back-lit mouse-wheel house area and back-lit buttons. The Vengeance M95 is available in both Gunmetal Black and Arctic White colors.

The Vengeance M95 Gaming Mouse will be available at a retailer near you in January at an MSRP of $79.99.

Vengeance M65 Gaming Mouse

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Courtesy of Corsair

The Vengeance M65 Gaming Mouse was designed with FPS (First Person Shooter) gamers in mind with a programmable Sniper button, instantly adjustable DPI, and adjustable center of gravity. The Sniper button is the red thumb button on the left side of the mouse, placed for easy access for instant toggle action.

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Courtesy of Corsair

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Courtesy of Corsair

Similar to the M95, the M65 Gaming Mouse includes a fully back-lit mouse-wheel house area and back-lit buttons. The Vengeance M65 is available in Gunmetal Black, Military Green, and Arctic White colors.

The Vengeance M65 Gaming Mouse will be available at a retailer near you in January at an MSRP of $69.99.

Vengeance MM600 Dual-sided Gaming Mat

Corsair designed the MM600 Dual-side Gaming Mat to appeal to many types of gamers. One side of the mat has a more textured design for superior mouse control, while the other side is a smooth texture for high-speed gliding. The MM600 is designed with a 3mm piece of aircraft-grade aluminum at its heart to provide a rigid surface and is encased in a specially designed polymer for superior performance and longevity. Additionally, Corsair includes non-slip rubber corners on the mat so that the surface stays in place during those critical fragging moments.

The Vengeance MM600 Dual-sided Gaming Mat will be available at a retailer near you in January at an MSRP of $39.99.

Vengeance 2000 Wireless Gaming Headset Driver Update

To further enhance you audio gaming experience, Corsair will be releasing driver support for the Dolby 2.0 Headphone spec on the Vengeance 2000 Wireless Gaming Headset series. With this updated support, the Vengeance 2000 series will fully support audio delivery in full 7.1-channel surround sound. Corsair expects to release this update sometime in February.

Press release after the break.

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Is your keyboard made from lasers? If you have the Celluon Magic Cube it is!

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2012 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: input, laser, Celluon, Magic Cube, keyboard

Who needs a mechanical keyboard if you can have one made out of lasers with an IR sensor to detect where your fingers are typing?  With both USB and Bluetooth connectivity the Celluon Magic Cube will beam a virtual keyboard onto any flat surface allowing you to type on a full keyboard without having to cart one around with you.  This will be more handy for tablet and phone users but still might be worth using with a laptop just because it is made of frickin' laser beams.  Hardware.Info tried out one of these hard to get a hold of devices and loved it as it performed as advertised and even has a mouse mode.  You may not type quite as fast as you would on a normal keyboard but you will look far more impressive.

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"It still looks and feels like science fiction, but this actually works. With the Magic Cube from Celluon you can create a fully functional keyboard on any surface, that types much better than the mini-keyboards on your average smartphone. The added value for tablets is more limited, because for those there are many more alternatives in terms of external keyboards."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

The cleanest keyboard going

Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2012 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: input, logitech, washable, K310, keyboard

It doesn't sport fancy mechanical switches, LEDs or movable macro keys like many keyboards sold today; this Logitech is special because it is washable.  You may have seen this product around before but if you haven't you can check out The Inquirer's review here.  The key design is unique looking and functional too as a spill will be directed around the keys and the bit that does get through will exit through the back.  Once you have spilled on the keyboard you just unplug it, take it to the sink and give it a thorough cleansing. Once it has dried you can plug it back in and get back to what you were doing before your beverage took a nose dive.  This may not be the sturdiest design or the best type of keys you have encountered though at $40 you really shouldn't expect that from this board, instead enjoy having the cleanest keyboard in the neighbourhood.

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"Pulling the Logitech keyboard out of the box, the first thing you'll notice is its bright blue underbelly that we assume is meant to connote the keyboard's friendly relationship with water. Lined around the edges on the back are drain holes, for spilled liquids or cleaning water to run out of."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Thoughts about Interface Design in General

I have been in several situations where a variety of people claim the gamepad is superior for gaming because that is what it was designed for. No elaboration or further justification is given. The controller is designed for gaming and is therefore clearly better. End of – despite often being start to – discussion in their minds.

Really it is a compromise between the needs of popular games and the environment of a couch.

Interface design is complicated. When you design an interface you need to consider: the expected types of applications; the environment of the user; what you are permitted to use; what tolerances are allowed; what your audience is used to; and so on, so forth. There is a lot to consider when you design an application for a user and I could make an educated guess that it is at least as hard to design the input device itself.

The history of keyboard design is a great example of tradeoffs in input devices.

Sometimes it is better to be worse...

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The first wave of keyboards were interfaces to the mechanical typewriter. These keyboards were laid out in alphabetical order because as long as each key is accessible and the user could find the letter they wanted – who cares, right? We already have an order for the alphabet that people understands so the users should not have too much difficulty in finding the letter they need.

Another constraint quickly game to light: typists were too fast and the machines jammed.

The engineers now needed to design an input method which could keep up with the typist. Correcting the machine itself was somewhat futile so the solution was to make the typist as slow as possible. The most common letters in the English language were spread all over the place and – while possibly by fluke – the left hand is favored, as in made do more work, over the often dominant right hand.

The problem required making the most aggravating keyboard layout engineers could imagine. QWERTY was born.

What has been designed to threaten QWERTY? Read on to find out.